By Godwin Oritse
WORK has reached advanced stage on the drafting of the law that will govern regional shipping activities of member states in the West African sub-region following Nigeria’s moves to benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AFCFTA.
Disclosing this at the just concluded Women in Shipping International, WISTA, the Acting Director General of the Abuja Memorandum of Understanding, Captain Sunday Umoren, said that when the draft was concluded and legislated upon, it will change the face of shipping activities in the region.
Umoren also called on the women involved in shipping activities to take advantage of the law when it eventually comes into being to grow their businesses taking advantage of the AFCFTA.
He explained that the proposed bill which is known as ‘Near coastal Voyage Code (NCV Code) was initiated five years ago by a member of the Nigerian delegates to the Association of African Maritime Administration (AAMA) conference in 2017.
The proposal was unanimously endorsed and was noted as one of the major actions for the facilitation of trade within Africa.
Umoren stated: “Some of the key issues discussed at the conference and resolutions reached includes adoption of resolutions on the institutionalization of July 25th of every year as Africa’s Day of the Seas and Oceans, Resolution on Member State to ratify, domesticate and implement relevant international maritime treaties, Commitment on best practices on Port State and Flag State responsibilities resolution on collaborative efforts in the training of Cadets and determine the role of Regulatory Agencies and Facilitation of Maritime Trade
“The Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control for West and Central African Region (Abuja MoU) in collaboration with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is currently working on the establishment of the Near Coastal voyage code for the region.
“NIMASA under the leadership of Dr. Jamoh Bashir is sponsoring the drafting and eventual delivery of the code which Abuja MoU will liaise with the member States to review and endorse for implementation.
‘‘Recall the Abuja MoU covers 22 West and Central African Countries.
“The code will cover the requirement for Bilateral Agreement and mutual acceptance of certificates issued by member states and shall cover domestic Passenger ferries and convention / non-convention cargo and fishing vessels (exiting, new and re-built) registered and trading within the Abuja MoU region.”
According to the Director of Shipping in the NIMASA some objectives of the proposed bill is aimed at harmonizing constructional standards, Standard of training, improved acceptability of NCV Licenses issued by Member States and to improve economic cooperation within the states and unify the quality of training, certification and general acceptance with a view to ensure safety of lives and avoidance of unduly expose our waters
“The trade or movement of vessels from one country to another is usually considered as an international voyage and trade and thus exposed to more stringent requirements; however, neighboring countries can have an agreement in which a certain area can be considered as an acceptable near-coastal region in the certification and general shipping activities-process.
“This is noted in the Merchant shipping Acts of many countries to which the Near Coastal voyage could be defined from one point to another and this could cover as many countries in a region as agreed by all. Example for Nigerian Merchant Shipping Act ”Near coastal “ MSA 2007 (SSB634) A near coastal voyage can be defined as a voyage in the coast of Africa between Cape Verde in the North and the mouth of River Congo in the South, during such voyage the vessel does not go beyond 30 nautical miles from the Shore” he stated